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Giving students salaries ‘would stem attrition’

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Reintroducing salaries for nursing students is the only way to stem attrition rates and stop the NHS haemorrhaging £51m a year, according to Unison.

It cites evidence that HCAs who are training to be nurses on paid secondment from their employer have a course attrition rate of less than 2%. The estimated rate for current bursary students is 16–25%.

The evidence has been submitted to the NMC as part of the union’s response to the consultation on the future of pre-registration education.

Nursing students were salaried until 1993 when the scheme was scrapped in favour of the current bursary scheme, which has been heavily criticised for leaving some students with little money to live on.

Under the scheme, a non-means tested basic allowance for diploma students living in London is £7,194, while a means tested bursary for degree students is £2,976. Unison claims that if students were still paid a salary comparable to 1993 rates, they would now receive £14,186 a year.

However, Shirley Bach, head of the institute of nursing and midwifery at Brighton University, said a move back to salaries could threaten students’ supernumerary status.

‘It’s a very controversial idea and the reason that we’ve moved away from that was because it gave student nurses a different set of responsibilities that weren’t always fully understood,’ she said. ‘At times they were expected to carry out tasks which they were perhaps not equipped to undertake.’

But Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said: ‘We can’t see another way out of the current situation for nurses.

‘Others say salaries would have a detrimental effect. But I do not think there is validity to that argument now because there are HCAs being seconded to nurse training via their employer and sticking to their course,’ she said.

‘They do the same modules and have the same assessments. The only difference is they are on a salary and not condemned to live in poverty. It creates a subtle loyalty to their employer.’

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